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Est. 2014

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How can Rochester become a destination for millennials?

How can Rochester become a destination for millennials?

Rochester's growing up in a hurry. Under the Destination Medical Center initiative, the city is expected to add more than 35,000 new jobs over the next 20 years — potentially doubling the size of the city (when you factor in children, trailing spouses, etc.) in the time it takes a newborn to reach adulthood.

How this will all play out remains to be seen. But even in the early stages, one thing is clear: How well Rochester can attract and retain young talent will play a significant role in the success of DMC.

And don't take my word for it. This emerged as a major theme when we interviewed top officials from city government, DMC and Mayo Clinic for a special report we published in December.


"We recognize in the past that people may come to Mayo Clinic for the brand to work for Mayo Clinic," said Jamie Rothe, Mayo Clinic's DMC manager. "But now as millennials and new people are looking at jobs, they're looking at more than just the name brand of the organization. They're looking at the community as a whole."

The good news is the Med City already has a lot going for it. In a report published last year, Forbes ranked Rochester as the 22nd best city in America for millennials, giving it positive marks for affordability, job opportunities and access to restaurants and bars.

So, the question becomes: What can we do to maintain these positive attributes, while also looking toward the future and trying to lure the brightest minds from across the world?

To find out what Rochester needs to do to become a destination for millennials under DMC, we turned to the experts. The following responses are from individuals in town who are already working to make Rochester a better place to live, work and play.

Sunny Prabhakar

Being a young professional in Rochester is both exciting and challenging right now. With all of the anticipated growth and energy in the city, young professionals have a blank canvas to create what they want the city to look like and to have their voices heard. Unfortunately, most young professionals in Rochester feel a disconnect from the decision makers in the city and this leads to a pessimistic view on their role in making real and lasting change. 

Our generation wants a voice in what happens to Rochester and given the chance, we have the capability to collaborate and innovate for the betterment of the community. In my opinion, to attract and retain young talent the city needs to foster the existing groups that are creating great experiences for that demographic, and the city officials at all levels need to be open to listen to the millennial opinions. We are entering an exciting time in Rochester and we can all agree our future growth relies on the city's ability to attract and retain the best talent available.


PJ Calkins

For me it comes down to these key areas of improvement to attract and keep millennials in this area. 

  • Competitive wages. In a lot of fields outside of medical larger markets have higher starting salaries. 
  • Entertainment and Events. Large national acts more consistently, especially in the winter. Outdoor activities and neighborhood festivals should be more consistent and better publicized.
  • Marketing strategy. To inform and promote the things Rochester does have and where things are going to both millennials already here and others considering moving here.

Ben Tilson

Being a millennial living in Rochester is great. Millennials are easily accepted into community groups, and are being heard. Along with sustainable events such as Thursdays on First and 3rd, Salute to the Fourth and RochesterFest, there is very seldom time when there is absolutely nothing to do in Rochester. One of the biggest things that needs to happen is somehow educating new young professionals what all Rochester has to offer.

Cyd Smith

Feeling engaged with the city key to attracting and retaining talent not just for Mayo but all of the existing and new industry . A lot has already been done to make downtown more vibrant after dark, but we need things to DO, not just eat and drink. We also need more millennials to serve as ambassadors for the city and invite people to go to Honkers games, Civic Center shows, exhibits at the Rochester Art Center, join a parks and rec intramural league or do a biking tour of the 4 breweries. A little pride makes it more fun for everyone.

Vanessa Carroll

What’s Rochester doing right? We’re starting the conversation. Our community has witnessed lots of changes in the past couple of decades to improve Rochester which makes me feel like there are finally accomplishments being made! I’m most excited to see how DMC and community efforts will activate the waterfront.

Maximizing the vision of what we currently have and increasing ways it will benefit our community is worth researching, and I think efforts are being made to gather community input to make Rochester a great experience for not only those who are visiting, but for those who live here. It is especially important for our community to stay engaged with such conversations and contribute to them. Leadership is listening, but they will not hear you if you’re not using your voice.


That being said, I would like to see our community embrace more integrated art, live music, and independent shops/boutiques. It is also important to keep activities affordable.

Ahmed Makkawy

Rochester has grown to better serve young professionals/millennials in big ways since I got here in 2006. It has done so through growing networks/grassroots organizations, a slew of new local business who cater to that populous, and more opportunities to serve in local government positions to foster our generation's needs.

Room for more growth exists as it relates to access to investment capital, commercial real estate, and mentorship. While these resources exist, we can further adapt them to better serve entrepreneurs and full-time professionals in Rochester and its vicinity. If we focus on the things that make cities great like affordability, growth, and entertainment - we'll soon realize the fruits of our efforts with a great return on investment!

Kurt Hohberger

When it comes to the goal of bringing in and keeping young professionals in Rochester throughout the DMC project and into the future, there are a lot of different avenues for improvement. One issue in particular that I personally hear repeatedly is that we need to find ways to create more opportunities for unique entertainment and engagement. Rochester has improved over the years by introducing recurring events like Thursdays on First and 3rd and Down By the Riverside, both of which are a step in the right direction... in the summer months.

There’s a demand and a need for more live music and community events year round that give that younger crowd more to look forward to than just heading straight to the bar or surfing Netflix for something new to watch. In my opinion, it’s going to have to be a grassroots, collaborative effort from the motivated people who are willing to put in some work to make events happen. It won’t be the city or Mayo Clinic making this happen directly.

Join us this Wednesday night from 5:30-7 p.m. at Forager Brewery for an informal conversation on what we can do to make Rochester attractive for millennials. Learn more here.

About Sean Baker: Sean is the founder and editor of the Med City Beat. Under his direction, the site has transitioned from a small news blog to one of the most widely-read publications in the city. Prior to launching the site in 2014, Sean spent about two years producing television news in Green Bay and Rochester. His office is above a brewery, so please excuse any typos. Twitter.

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